Recently I attended the Plumpton College/FERA demo day at Rock Lodge Vineyard discussing the Vitismart project. Of those present, many were being or had been trained at Plumpton College and are keen to learn about new methods.
Neil Boonham, Newcastle University and FERA, introduced the concept of spore trapping to identify major grape diseases. He explained the reasons why this is useful in vineyards and how trapped material could be separated, DNA identified and correlated to a specific disease. Ian Brittain, FERA, discussed pieces of kit to quantify spore numbers (costing £200-£3000) and how an assessment can indicate risk of infection using this data. This can be used as a management tool to decide whether cultural management, such as leaf stripping, should be stepped up, or a spray application required.
Why is this important? In recent weeks, each of the UK Resistance Action Groups (weed, fungicide and insecticide) have met and agreed that the inclusion of mode of action labelling for products should be considered, so that growers can tailor programmes to manage and reduce resistance risk.
Cornell University's eminent Grape Disease Pathologist, Dr. Wayne F Wilcox always emphasises the need to "rotate the chemistry" to manage resistance and reduce its chances of occurring.
Poor application and resistance are the greatest threat to product efficacy. Few new active substances, even fewer new modes of action, and the loss of existing products mean this risk will increase.
With fewer products available, and dose rates being lowered, growers must maximise the efficacy of products approved. At the demo, it was shown that with some basic kit and matchsticks coated with Vaseline (plus an infield, not so cheap analyser from Optisense) spore release could be monitored and spray applications selected and timed for greater accuracy than the predictive models using data from met stations.
With so many UK vineyards being 2-4 hectares, this opens up a cost-effective opportunity to
manage spray applications. Larger vineyards may choose the advanced pieces of technology which can be automated to send results to a central point. From an advisor's view there is the option of screening spores for resistance to ensure that the product applied is working. All very satisfying and a lot of the equipment is now available off the shelf.
Stimulating growth building resistance
Designed to stimulate growth while enhancing vines’ resistance to fungal diseases, Vinecare is a new foliar spray manufactured by Sussex-based fertiliser specialists Solufeed.
Vinecare has been specifically formulated for vines using a high strength garlic extract, supplemented with natural plant derived nutrients, which is safe to use and harmless to bees and beneficial insects. The product has also been approved by the Soil Association for organic production.
Applied as a regular treatment, Vinecare stimulates growth and plant vigour, encourages resistance to botrytis and mildew and assists in maximising the effects of fertilisation, helping to optimise plant health and resist the effects of stress and repair damage caused by nematodes.
When used frequently in a programme of treatments, Vinecare can build resistance to bacterial and fungal diseases, reducing growers' reliance on conventional pesticides and leading to a reduction or elimination of pesticide residues in the resultant grapes.
The covering, which becomes odourless within minutes of application, gives no chemical setback and imparts no taints or flavours.
"This is a major breakthrough for viticulture," said Jack Holden, product manager at Solufeed. "Being a natural product, it is totally biodegradable and is kind to the environment while also being rich in Selenium and sulphur."
Vinecare is applied as a fine spray throughout the growing season every seven to ten days at five to eight litres per hectare diluted one to 100 in water.